The Secret Life of Entrepreneurs- Part 2

the secret life of entrepreneurs

“God has entrusted me with myself.” – Epictetus

Part II- The Care and Feeding of the Entrepreneur

What determines success in business? Are there any measurable factors? What are the common denominators?

Last time I checked, all entrepreneurs have at least one common characteristic. They are all people. They come from all walks of life. Some are rich. Some are poor. Each has a unique blend of life experiences and skill sets, and all have baggage. No super heroes in the bunch. However, some climb from homeless to head honcho. Others, with every conceivable advantage, fall from the pinnacle of success with the silver spoon still in their mouth. Neither privilege nor degrees nor circumstance seem to distinguish those who will ultimately succeed from those who fail. Rather, the difference is made in the space between the two ears and determined by the distance between head and heart. This is good news indeed for those who feel disadvantaged.

All entrepreneurs come with flaws. Then we take ourselves to work. Thus, we find one defining factor. If you cannot manage yourself, you will never manage a business. Managing yourself is one of the most difficult tasks you will ever do in business. Last week, we discussed how being a well-rounded entrepreneur is not much different from being a well-rounded adult. Adults take full responsibility for their entire life: spirit, soul, and body.

Successful entrepreneurs work hard at becoming what they need to be in order to do what they need to do. Be always comes before do. The nice thing about entrepreneurship? If we are honest with ourselves, we can become what we need to be along the way. In the journey itself.

Your business will never be better than you are as an individual.

Becoming is harder than it seems. But it indeed begins with you:

You are what you believe about yourself, and about the world. Successful entrepreneurs are always aware of their humanity. They know we can at times be blind, and at other times brilliant. They are brutally honest with themselves. No one goes through life with a completely accurate picture of their own person. Some have inflated views of themselves, imagining themselves capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. (You know them when you see them! These are the ones that wear those NO FEAR T-shirts). Other entrepreneurs fear every decision they ever make. (How will you know if it is the right decision if you never make it?) Both extremes are scary. (Every entrepreneur needs a SOME FEAR T-shirt.)

Be honest now. When you get up in the morning, what are your first thoughts about the day? Do you greet each new day with gratitude, or with dread? Do you feel confident and capable? Or fearful and frazzled? Whatever your attitude is, you cannot but help but live it out in your business. “Whether you think you can or think you can’t–you’re right”. Henry Ford

What you believe about the world filters into everything you do. Healthy entrepreneurs are always growing, learning, and applying. Successful entrepreneurs seek feedback, and use that feedback to take calculated risks. This habitual behavior translates into confidence that can express itself in action. Action is worth ten times as much as any idea.   

You are your expectations. Every new business is like an untried engine. Get it spinning fast enough, and all systems will be strained. Every growing business will eventually experience a few nuts and bolts flying off the machine. If you expect everything will go as planned, you will be easily disillusioned. On the other hand, if you are an Eeyore and expect only problems, you will miss everything that is going right. You will become obsessed with solving the specific issue in front of you, and miss an easier route of reaching the goal right next to you. In all reality, monkey wrenches are part and parcel of the entrepreneurial experience. Disappointments come not from the circumstances but from our expectations. You get what you are looking for. Successful entrepreneurs adapt to change as a way of life, but stay focused on the goal.

You are your motivations. Did you become an entrepreneur simply to escape your old boss and the Land of Cubicles? Sure, you are free to do what you like. But freedom in business is not freedom from, but freedom for. What exactly have you been freed up to do? When our only reason to start business is to escape our current lot, we find more problems than we left behind. If being a successful entrepreneur means taking ownership, then rats! All these problems now belong to me! I just traded one grumpy boss for one hundred grumpy customers. You will find yourself lacking motivation to continue. To sustain business, you must have a vision of something bigger–something to make the world a better place.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. Proverbs 29:18.

You are your habits. You will manage your business in the same way you manage your personal life. Think about your bedroom closet for a moment. (Painful, I know. Bear with me.) Your closet is a Rorschach test of how you will handle your business. Scary? Perhaps. Whether cluttered or clean, stuffed or sparse, your personal habits will become your business habits. What is my level of self-discipline? Do I make myself do the things I know I must do? Do I set up systems and structures to create a framework for success? Am I able to structure my time and focus and eliminate my own distractions?  Self-discipline is not just nice. It is a necessity. If the boss does not have it, no one will.

You are what you learn. Learning for the small business owner is as a way of life. What skills do you need to possess to do the things you want to do? The learning curve is no longer a curve. It goes straight up. If you want to be successful in business, you must commit to the state of perpetual student. Learn as much as you can whenever you can from whomever you can. Plan for it. Make space in your schedule for it.

You are your health. It is also amazing to me how many entrepreneurs start business and ignore their physical health. Physical wholeness is as much of a necessity for business survival as your sales figures. You may hold to your busy schedule and claim no time for the gym. But without your health, you have no business. Successful entrepreneurs do not put their health on the back burner in pursuit of the almighty dollar. They feed their brains good food. They exercise. They play. A healthy body is a healthy mind. And a healthy business.

How can I say these things with such confidence? Because I have experienced a lapse of them all. Small business has taxed all of my brain power, affected my self-esteem, challenged my level of self-discipline, and questioned my motivations. Several years ago, I even lost a measure of health for about a year from the false glory of martrydom–from not paying attention to my body.

You have heard it said that you are what you think. I will go so far as to say that your business success is a result of the success of your entire person–spirit, soul, and body. It is not my intent to discourage, but rather to shine a light on a common entrepreneurial problem: we often neglect our own person as entrepreneurs, and it results in business malaise.

It is possible to improve upon all of these things if you bring them into focus. It is crucial to your success to work harder on yourself than you do your business. Make baby steps toward becoming the best you that you can be. Take heart. And take care of yourself, spirit, soul and body. It is not selfish, because others depend on you.

Your whole entrepreneurial world depends on it.

Stay tuned next week for Part III, all about our relationships.


Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about the way you manage your business?  Because your graphics will always give away your internal management. The more clear your vision, the more lucid your marketing, and the better your visual graphics. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.